This review is a deliberate attempt to interest those of you who aren’t Trekkies, or are perhaps luke-to-middling warm fans of the TV shows and films in the franchise, in the books as well. As far as the films and TV series go, there’s no denying that the more recent ones are a lot more exciting and well-scripted, but since the latest one, Star Trek (2009), proved to not only be a big hit but also changed the story absolutely and completely into a different timeline altogether by destroying Vulcan, the planet that is “Spock’s World”, I thought it might not be a bad idea to review this particular book out of the hundreds in the Star Trek canon with the same characters from The Original Series (TOS) – Kirk, Spock, Bones McCoy, Sulu, Chekov, Scotty, Uhura…well, the list goes on. This particular one comes from the TOS paperback series. There are loads of books, and some of the ones from the Deep Space Nine series in particular are really well written. Spock’s World is one of the better ones in the TOS pocketbook series, along with Ishmael, Uhura’s Song, The Entropy Effect, and The Eugenics Wars Series, where the bad guy is a Khan Singh from Punjab. There are literally hundreds of books, spanning all the different series, and I might review one or two from other series later on, particularly the Dominion Wars books from the Deep Space Nine Series, which outside of TOS are my favourites.I’ve reviewed one Star Trek book previously, but that was from The Next Generation (TNG). It’s important to point out here that the Star Trek books don’t form part of the official canon, unlike the multitude of books in Star Wars. It’s also a very different kind of science fiction. Star Wars is set in an entirely separate galaxy, while Star Trek is firmly rooted on Terra (as it’s known in Star Trek), or Earth, if you prefer. The fact that the headquarters of Starfleet Academy is in San Francisco should give you some idea of how and why the whole thing took off in the first place.
I’m now going to go into a bit of detail right now regarding this particular book itself. If you’re not a Trekkie, or not even remotely interested in Star Trek, I suggest not clicking on read more. But for those of you who are, and/or want to know about the Star Trek universe (there’s multiverses, actually, but let’s not get into that now) please, feel free.
Out of the many Star Trek authors, Duane certainly has a flair and a feel for the characters that quite a few of the others conspicuously lack. This gets borne out very clearly through the book, which tells you everything you wanted to know about the history of Spock’s planet, Vulcan. The book opens with our heroes of the Starship Enterprise learning that Vulcan is about to hold a referendum on whether or not it should remain within the United Federation of Planets or not. If you want to know what the Federation is, click here. If you do, then you’ll understand its a big thing. Vulcans, naturally, are far more advanced politically, and when asked caustically by McCoy at the briefing if the people would be interested, Spock replies that the Vulcan equivalent of the word for “idiot” basically means “one who does not take part in civic affairs” and that all adult Vulcans by the age of two hundred have held some sort of public office. So yes, they will be paying attention, all fifteen billion or so of them.
The book alternates between the current and the past. In the current narrative, Spock, Kirk, and McCoy are all asked to testify at the debate, as is Sarek, Spock’s father and the Vulcan Ambassador to Earth. There’s a whole chapter on Sarek, which was later expanded to a book itself, on how he came to his love (or at least shrewdly compassionate understanding) for humans, and more particularly, for Spock’s human mother, Amanda. Two important things also emerge about the Vulcan psyche. Firstly, they can all sense “God” everywhere at all times. This sort of contradicts the story in the films, but as I said before, the books aren’t part of the “official” story-line. It also explains that Vulcans are not emotionless. That misunderstanding on the part of humans was due to a simple translation error by Amanda. She understood the Vulcan word for mastery to mean emotionless, and Sarek corrects her by, well, take a guess. It does have something to do with cell division.
It’s this kind of thing that makes Spock’s World such an interesting read, because it tells you the whole history of Vulcan. They weren’t always the cold, ruthlessly enigmatic logicians they seem to be, and were, in fact, a violent, dangerous people who more than once took their entire species to the brink of obliteration. The story of Kesh (Midkemia bell alert! If you understood what that means, please email me:-) is my favourite, but the earlier ones of when and how the planet was born and how its species became sentient and aware are really engaging as well. When the time line advances, into history you discover that they also had their own philosopher- saviour/prophet, called Surak, who understood the nature of the other (the spear in your own heart is as the spear in the other. You are he.) and chose to embrace it. He simply wrote on the Vulcan equivalent of the Internet, but he altered, or perhaps redefined would be a better word, the destiny of the Vulcan race. It was Surak who invented IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite
Combinations), which later became the heart of Vulcan meta-character. Knowing fully well that entropy would be the result. In fact, that was the sign of his success, that entropy would hit back, in its most familiar form, war.. Naturally, he died a violent death attempting to bring about peace. Hence the Vulcan tradition of giving males children an ‘S’ name.This is also the time when the race later to be known as the Romulans split off from their brethren to find another home in the galaxy. It’s known in Vulcan history as ‘The Time of Awakening’. There’s a whole lot more to it, here’s the Star Trek Wiki link. Yes, it has its own Wiki. That really shouldn’t surprise you.
The chapters in the book that are the ‘present’ time are excellent as well. All of the testifiers speeches are memorable, McCoy’s in particular, I think, for he had foreseen the possibility of such a referendum and took it upon himself to learn the Vulcan language genetically, meaning he had it encoded into his own genetic structure, like any Vulcan would. Personally, I prefer the Babel Fish, but hey, it makes him convincing. He also quotes Surak a lot, in very interesting and often combative ways. Sarek’s speech is fascinating as well, because despite all his attachments to Earth he is asked to testify in favour of Vulcan’s succession from the Federation, which he does out of his own volition because logic (and a little bit of pressure from T’Pau, the female Vulcan who is the total if unacknowledged ruler of the planet). T’Pau has a much bigger agenda, of course, which is revealed at the end, as are the real reasons that forced the referendum in the first place. It was quite an interesting twist, and I particularly enjoyed seeing the words Spock and nonplussed associated with each other without involving another being. Read the book to see why, but if you know anything about Star Trek, the name of T’Pring should be enough.
Some, especially Trekkies, might consider this book an odd choice for an introductory review, but since Spock is such an important character I figured the more you know about him the better. Like I said, the new movie has completely changed TOS, so if you do pick this up, remember that while you’re enjoying what should be a thoroughly entertaining read. For Vulcanites, this book is an absolute must, but you know that already and should only be reading this to entertain mine own hummble perspective. I’m not a total Trekkie, but I’ve trekked far enough to know what Mene sakkhet ur-seveh means. And may you all.
A book designer, Arati has always enjoyed books and the world of imagination that they open up. She is extremely accident-prone, due entirely to absent-mindedness caused by thinking about books and their contents, instead of paying attention to what she's actually supposed to be doing. She reads multiple books simultaneously, and her choices range from cookbooks and design manuals to fantasy, crime and Regency romances.
She lives and works in London, UK and sells her art on paper and textiles at Etsy